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July 19 2002 - Sun Sentinel

Lauderdale begins revitalization of blighted northwest

By Brittany Wallman

FORT LAUDERDALE · Up to now, a better northwest Fort Lauderdale has been nothing but a fuzzy dream, backed up by vague promises.

But Thursday, city elected officials, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, signed off on real plans for tangible projects that include homes, drainage, office space and street improvements.

Commissioners unanimously and quickly steered the predominantly black area in the direction other areas have been going for years: redevelopment. The city will spend $18 million for redevelopment by Oct. 1, 2003, and $46.2 million by the fall of 2007.

The city last year made the historic move of agreeing to borrow $45 million to upgrade the Northwest-Progresso-Flagler Community Redevelopment Agency area and repay the money with tax revenue the development will create.

But it is only now that the money is ready for spending, and ground will be broken on some of the projects.

Residents of the northwest can see the cranes in the distance redeveloping the downtown business district, but investors have ignored their community. And, residents say, so has the city.

"The fact is, you know, it's long overdue," said Rosby Glover, chief operating officer of the Mount Bethel Human Services Corp., located in one of Sistrunk Boulevard's first new office structures in years, the Negro Chamber of Commerce building. "But we're very elated."

Told that the city would be spending millions in the area around him, Dennis Jackson, sitting in his Sistrunk Boulevard office, smiled and said, "Well that's not going to be enough."

City officials acknowledge that Jackson is right, but they hope their financial infusion will set off private investment. Many of the projects they plan are public-private, to help make the projects feasible for investors.

Maria Freeman's Sistrunk Boulevard offices, for example, will be renovated and expanded, at Sistrunk and Ninth Avenue -- a project to which commissioners agreed on Thursday. The CRA will pay $340,571 of the total, will loan Freeman $57,321, and will lease space there when it's complete.

Freeman's business will benefit from street improvements the CRA will pay for as well. The commissioners agreed to negotiate with Wallace, Roberts ~Todd LLC, to do consulting work on a planned pedestrian-friendly streetscape on Sixth Street and Sistrunk Boulevard, and to propose urban design guidelines for how development along that street should look.

Longtime residents told commissioners of drug dealers at one end of their streets and hungry, destitute residents at the other. Commissioners told them Thursday that things are changing.

Commissioners agreed to CRA Director Kim Jackson's proposed $13.7 million spending plan for the 2002-03 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.

Her plan outlines the following:

Estates: The CRA will spend $800,000 on infrastructure to help Lennar Homes and developer Bob Young build 12 homes on the North Fork of the New River, part of an overall plan for new houses in that area. Bank of America also is building a 50-unit project in that area.

Business District/Sistrunk Boulevard: The section of Sistrunk between Northwest Seventh and 15th avenues will be redeveloped to create a compact commercial center.

Riverbend Redevelopment and Infill: For two years the CRA has been buying vacant parcels three in a row for a "model home" program, and it is ready to seek a contractor to build the homes.

Flagler Heights mixed-use projects: This area is north of Broward Boulevard, between Andrews Avenue and U.S. 1. The CRA has helped subsidize mixed-use projects there and attracted $90 million in private investment, and plans a $3.5 million Sixth Street streetscaping.

Konover: The dilapidated shopping center at Interstate 95 and Broward Boulevard will be redeveloped into an office park.

One-Stop Shop: The city wants to build its development permitting "One-Stop Shop" at the site. The city plans to redevelop the current One-Stop Shop site at the northwest corner of Andrews Avenue and Second Street.

Avenue of the Arts: Land on the corner of Northwest Seventh Avenue/Avenue of the Arts and Sistrunk will be developed into a commercial hub with a grocery store.

Progresso area: A modern sewer system will replace septic tanks, and drainage will be improved.

Seventh/Ninth connector: For years, plans have been in the works to reroute Northwest Ninth Avenue to connect it to Northwest Seventh Avenue. The CRA wants to plan redevelopment along the new road's path.

The CRA also discussed development of a city-owned parking lot at Fort Lauderdale beach, at the eastern foot of the Las Olas Bridge. Commissioners were advised that Publix plans a small grocery store there as part of the project.

Brittany Wallman can be reached at or 954-356